They Left Their Mark In Oakford, 1872

Village of Oakford
(From R.D. Miller's "History of Menard County 1879") Page 12


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This is a small village on the S.&N.W.R.R. and was surveyed and platted by A.J.Kelley. County Surveyor for the proprietors. William Oakford and William Colson in March 1872. The town plat contains sixty acres and is in the midst of a fine agricultural district. The land on which the town is situated belonged to Colson and Oakford acquired a half-interest for his influence in securing a station. A public sale of lots was made April 11, 1872. at which time some $2000 worth were disposed of and soon after improvements began to be made.

The first building or shanty on the town site was what was known as the railroad store, a kind of portable affair carrying chiefly in stock a supply for the railroad hands. Soon after the village was laid out. William Oakford built a storeroom and opened out a stock of groceries.

In the summer of 1872 . a general store was opened by Calvin Atterberry, who had been in business at "Bobtown." This was purchased in 1873, by Isaac Ogden and A.G. Colson. In January 1874 L.W. Roberts bought out Colson and the firm became that of Odgen and Roberts. In October 1875 they sold out to Sutton Bros. who have since conducted the business.

In June 1873 H. A. Bennett from Petersburg opened out a stock of drugs and shelf goods in the old railroad storeroom. this he soon after sold to William Colson and he in turn to A.G. Colson and J.H. Green. In January 1876 S.L. Watkins the present proprietor bought the establishment.

In the spring of 1875 Dr. J.D. Whitley and W.C. Roberts erected a building and opened a drug store. T.P. Renshaw & Co. began the operation of a branch store with a general stock in August 1878. They occupy the room erected by Watkins & Colson and formerly occupied by Moon & Gault of Petersburg. Their main store is located in Chandlerville, Cass County.

Oliver J.Maltby and J.W. Walker started a harness shop in 1876. This branch of business is at present operated by Berget Guist from Virginia Cass County.

A confectionery and restaurant is operated semi occasionally by C.P. Stith. James S. Carter form Petersburg opened a furniture store here in 1877 but did not continue long. Dr.J.D. Whitley and Charles Meyers built the first dwellings in the village in the summer of 1872. Meyers had formerly kept a doggery at Robinson's Mills and supplied the villagers and surrounding inhabitants of the infant Oakford with fire-water for the space of two years. James P. Thomas familiarly known as "Porky Thomas" now issues out rations to the "boys" in the way of "smiles".

James S. Carter after closing out his furniture store, operated a saloon and still operates it. Gilbert Skaggs, now editor of the Chandlerville Independent, built the first blacksmith shop in the village. This was purchased by James McElhern who cam from Canada, and was the first blacksmith in the place.

L.W. Roberts, Isaac Ogden, William Jackson, A.G. Colson, Henry Garber, James McElhern and perhaps others built dwellings in the summer of 1874 and for a time the village seemed to be well out on the highway to prosperity. But the storm is ever succeeded by the calm, so the spirit of improvement gradually subsided and the village has pretty much since remained the status quo.

The first practitioner to locate in the village was Dr. J.D. Whitley, who has recently taken up his residence in Petersburg. Jacob A.Bolinger, M.D. is the present resident physician. He has but recently located here and is a young man of much promise in his profession. He is an alumnes of Missouri Medical College.

Rev. John Kennedy, a minister of the Baptist persuasion preached her in quite an early period of the village history.

Typical Residence of Oakford

The above picture is a typical homestead in Oakford prior to 1900. This is the home of Elliott which was located east of the William Severns residence today. Soon after Oakford was founded many of these homes were moved into town from the rural area. No schoolhouse or church building has ever been erected in the village limits. Services are held occasionally by the different denominations of the vicinity in the hall over the storeroom of Renshaw & Co.

The mortality among the children of the village and neighborhood in the summer of 1873 was very great. Five interments sometimes occurred in a single day at the Oakford Cemetery. The first death among the adult population was that of Horace Purdy whose decease occurred in the winter of 1872. His wife also died a few weeks later.

The first birth was that of a son of John Whitley , born in September 1872. The marriage of A.G.Colson and Rachel Skaggs, in November. 1872 and that of L.W.Roberts and Carrie C. Ogden, in March 1873 were the first weddings that occurred in the village.

The post office was established soon after the village was started. It is at present presided over by S.L. Watkins. Low & Foster built a small elevator in 1877 and handle the grain shipped from this point.

A case of justifiable homicide occurred in the village during the summer of 1876. James McElhern who has already been mentioned as the first blacksmith lost his life at the hands of one A.J. McDonald. McElhern was a man of grate physical strength and of rather a quarrelsome disposition especially when under the influence of intoxicants. It was clearly proven at the preliminary examination that McDonald was making every effort possible to avoid and encounter, but finding every avenue of escape cut off, suddenly turned upon him and delivered a pistol shot which proved fatal. The grand jury failed to find a bill of indictment and so that matter ended.

The business interests of the village today are represented as follows: Two general stores, one drug store, one harness shop, one boot and shoe shop, one barber shop, one flour and feed store, one butcher shop, two saloons and one grain elevator. The population of the village does not exceed two hundred.

Oakford was incorporated in March 1892. The first village board was J.J. Stroh, president, E.J. Thomas, clerk, O.J.Maltby, treasurer, John Benson police.

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